First Impressions' candidates' forum marks start of busy campaign season in Routt County

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If you go

What: First Impressions' candidates' forum

When: 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013

Where: Routt County Commissioners' hearing room in the historic downtown courthouse

— It isn’t easy to raise a child in Routt County.

Parents will tell you that, and so will the numbers.

For a family of four with an infant and a preschooler, parents here need to bring in an income of at least $79,000 to make ends meet, according to the state’s self-sufficiency standard.

In Routt County, the average median income for a household sits below that at $65,000.

“When families are struggling to make ends meet, you have to wonder about the stress that is in that household,” said Stephanie Martin, the program supervisor for First Impressions of Routt County’s Early Childhood Council.

How elected officials in Routt County provide support for these families will be the focus of First Impressions’ annual candidates' forum in downtown Steamboat Springs Wednesday.

The event will offer community members a chance to get to know the people who are running for seats on local school boards and the Steamboat City Council.

“It’s a chance to find out what these candidates think are the biggest challenges facing young children today,” Martin said.

It's also an opportunity for the candidates to learn more about First Impressions, which helps secure early childhood and education scholarships from Routt County United Way, the city of Steamboat and Routt County.

After they are elected, school board and city council members here can have a big impact on families who face the challenge of raising their kids in one of the more expensive places there is to raise them.

In addition to volunteering their time at First Impressions, council members oversee funding to the organization’s Early Childhood Care and Education Scholarship Program.

This year, the contribution was $54,500, and the average family who benefits from that funding was a family of four making $39,000 a year, Martin said.

School board members oversee the funding their districts receive from the Colorado Preschool Program and are important voices in how the district allocates funds to kindergarten programs.

The Steamboat School Board in recent years has discussed funding its program fully.

But the idea, which carries a price tag of hundreds of thousands of dollars, has not come to fruition because of budget constraints.

Candidates invited to Wednesday’s forum include those who are running for the Steamboat City Council and the school boards in Hayden and Steamboat.

The event marks the kickoff of a campaign season that will see candidates address a wide range of issues.

In the coming weeks, city council members are expected to weigh in on such things as the construction of a new police station, marijuana rules and their budget priorities.

School board members will discuss a proposed statewide tax increase that would net nearly $1 billion more for public education and change how districts in the state are funded.

After the First Impressions Forum, community members can watch the city council candidates interviewed on the Oct. 4 installment of Pirate Theatre’s Monthly Daily Show. Tickets are available at All That Jazz.

The segment will air on TV18 and on the radio at ESPN 98.9 starting Oct. 12.

Then, on Oct. 14, the Routt County Council on Aging will host a candidates' forum at 12:30 p.m. in the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Residents will have a final chance to meet the candidates at an election forum sponsored by the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Steamboat Board of Realtors, the Routt County Democratic Party and the Routt County Republican Party. The forum starts with a meet and greet at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17 at The Steamboat Grand.

Ballots for the election will be mailed to voters starting Oct. 15.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

Comments

Scott Wedel 7 months ago

So the first candidates forum is also "an opportunity for the candidates to learn more about First Impressions" which receives about .1% of the city's budget.

The second is a pay to attend event is a segment of the monthly Pirate Theater production where the candidates are interviewed.

The third is by the Routt County Council on Aging. Another special interest group that receives a tiny fraction of the city's overall budget.

And the final candidates forum which is finally an open forum is held AFTER the ballots are mailed?

Could this be organized to give the public any less opportunity to meet the candidates?

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John Fielding 7 months ago

The first event was last week, Tuesday at the Kiwanis luncheon at the community center. Chuck Tony and I were there as was a reporter.

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John Fielding 7 months ago

I have been doing some homework that I hope will make me better prepared as a candidate.

At the building department I learned that modest renovations to the existing public safety building to allow the police to use both levels will not trigger a mandatory upgrade to meet the critical structures code requirement. however a plan to demolish the upper level and replace it with two stories certainly would.

At the fire department I learned a great deal about the interrelationships between many of the public safety departments and with the governmental organizations they serve under. There are purely political elements that create tremendous difficulties, including letting potential funding sufficient to build a new station go untapped.

In a conversation with the director of the Yampa Valley Electric Association I learned that the time frame for moving out has not been firmly established, but it might well be between two to five years from now. One factor in the uncertainty is that a new site has not been selected. I related the information gleaned from a conversation with a council member last week, that there is a map on the wall at the city managers office that identifies every piece of city owned land. The director said she is very interested in looking into whether any city land would be suitable for their needs, and will arrange a meeting with the city manager as promptly as their schedules allow. She also agreed to get back to me with the results of that meeting, which I will of course share here and wherever else is appropriate.

The idea of trading all or in part had a genuine appeal, as did the prospect that the historic building would be spared from demolition. Other lesser works by the same architect in this town are already on the historic register, this one could very likely be eligible for significant grants to preserve it.

I have made a preliminary inquiry at the Architectural office of Robert Ralston, one of our most knowledgeable and esteemed local resources, (his works include the middle school and many other local landmarks), who has collected numerous works of earlier designers of our local structures. I hope he will be able to give a quick outline of what it would take to have the YVEA building serve as a future public safety campus. (That was a preferred option in the opinion of our recently retired police chief.)

I will be happy to share the results of my inquiry, here or in person to anyone who cares to ask. This forum provides a private message service if you just click on the name next to the avatar.

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John Fielding 7 months ago

Just a brief update, Robert does have most of the plans for the police/fire building and the YVEA building. He has made initial contact with Diane Johnson (YVEA director) at the Rotary lunch and they will meet formally later. He and I are researching the possibilities actively. He will contact his long time friend Larry Ball, the man who probably knows more about the YVEA infrastructure than anyone, to help fill in the gaps in the information in hand.

The initial glance shows that while the design criteria were for normal loading, the structure was not sized to the minimum allowable. It will take detailed analysis to identify which areas are already oversized enough to meet critical structures criteria and which will need reinforcement.

There are many local residents with skills, knowledge, and inclination to help. To disregard that resource in the research of police station options is really missing out.

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John Fielding 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I have a correction to my earlier comment. At the first forum, last week at the Kiwanis luncheon, there was not a reporter present. The young man I saw busily taking notes turns out to be Clark Davidson's campaign manager. And I mistakenly referred to Clark as Chuck. i apologize for my mistakes.

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